I went to see Beeswax, the new film from Andrew Bujalski. It finally made its way to Cleveland and premiered tonight, and I’d been itching to see it. People have been calling it Bujalski’s breakthrough movie. I could agree with that, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.
I gave his previous two films Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciate 5/5 stars and I loved them because they were so refreshing and honest. I hadn’t seen anything like that and it really moved me and turned me on the rest of the “mumblecore” folks like Joe Swanberg, Mark Duplass, Greta Gerwig, etc. 3 years later, I am sitting watching Beeswax in a theatre trying to love Beeswax, but something just wasn’t there. Sure, this film has more “story” than others and the quality is better even though it’s still got his trademark grainy “diy” look to it. Critics are saying its his best feature, and I think they’re right but I didn’t walk away with any sort of warm and fuzzy feelings.
In my opinion, Beeswax has TOO much story in it. It kind of spreads itself thin as it meanders around the various characters who come and go. There are some cute scenes but the story is thinly draped around the girls vintage clothing store business and how her business partner is threatening to leave the company and maybe sue her. In the mountains of great dialogue in this film, nobody really seems to ask or care “why” she might be suing her. They never get into any of those details. It’s more like “awe shucks, I’m kinda screwed.” The characters have conversations, but in typical mumblecore style, they dance around the details and can’t quite grasp their own thoughts let alone speak them. They often seem oddly confused or distracted. I am willing to say that’s the way Bujalski wanted his characters. From what I’ve read it’s about how our generation sort of fails at adulthood. That sums up this film if you ask me. I’m cool with that.
Andrew’s films have a soft spot and have heart. Which I love. Beeswax certainly did – as I’m still a fan of the unhip characters and their awkward relationships. The characters are real and honest – it doesn’t appear to be like Hollywood latching onto a Michael Cera type to be the nerdy underdog hero. For that, I will always appreciate Andrew Bujalski. My wife, who watched it with me couldn’t help being annoyed at the girls’ messed up hair. She said the same thing in Funny Ha Ha. Those are things I dig.
Anyway, I give Beeswax a happy 4/5. I liked it. But I just can’t say I loved it. Although in principle I love it. I love how there’s no soundtrack, no special effects, no tricks. It’s the opposite of NYC Hipster Art films. But I wish that his characters/films had a little more bite and emotion. Just a smidge more. Let it out Andrew! There’s a lot of depth to the characters, I just want to get more of it.